Active meetings with Adobe Connect Pro – getting started

Active meetings with Adobe Connect Pro – getting started

I recently had my first opportunity to try out this meetings/web conferencing tool with students. After only one training session on how to use it, I’m definitely a beginner! But (I asked myself), with tools like this one, don’t we need to simply try them out and find out firsthand the advantages and pitfalls?

I’d like to share with you what I hoped to achieve (goals), how we went about it (preparation), and a few things we learned along the way.

Here’s the scenario:

I was teaching CCM II (Cross-Cultural Management – key qualifications) in FBII – Berufsakademie in August of this year, and our objectives included practising meetings in English. So the training included a collection of face-2-face meetings tasks and a number of scenarios that dealt with cross-cultural issues typical in international business situations. I wanted to have them interact online in some way because their companies will require these skills later. From what I had heard (and one experience I had had as a participant) I thought Adobe Connect Pro might be a good choice.

Some advantages include:

Participants simply receive a link and log in to the meeting which the facilitator has opened under a specific name. No downloads required. Can be used with headphones (+ webcams, optional) Other features include: whiteboard, upload option for ppts, private discussion button, text chat, live recording/save option.

I decided to use our scenario model which included a story setting and roles. Here’s a summary of it:

International Joint Venture

Company X has set up as joint venture with a local company in a new market. The aim of this joint venture is to enter a new market with the benefit of local knowledge. The local company is small, just the owner and 5 employees. Company X employs 2,500 staff the world over.

The story has detail about the amount and terms of investment for first-third year marketing and distribution, expected turnover and earnings potential. All conditions are subject to annual review and revision.

The story has its players midway through the first year and turnover is running well below targets. There have been unforeseen problems and Company X feels it is losing control of the situation. The partners do not speak each other’s language (both non-native speakers of English). A meeting is called to discuss options open to get the joint venture back on track.

Agenda of the meeting:

1. Market report

2. Financial report

3. Options:

a) recruitment of local employee to oversee the joint venture

b) more regular reporting

c) abandon joint venture at end of year

4. Action plan

Roles (incl. descriptions)

  1. chairperson, CEO Company X
  2. area sales manager
  3. marketing manager
  4. distribution manager
  5. financial manager
  6. consultant
  7. observer (responsible for minutes)

Of course prior to the meeting we discussed some of the different issues we felt could arise in an online virtual meeting and exchanged ideas on cross-cultural sensitivities in non-face2face situations. This included the special role of the chairperson in a virtual meeting. So we were quite well prepared for some of these issues.

We doodled a time to meet, made sure that everyone had headphones and webcams (optional). Students prepared their roles on their own time. The time we set was about 14 days later. If class is held weekly, I recommend allowing this amount of time for preparation of an initial meeting session.

The meeting went very well! Isabelle chaired the meeting very professionally and all the other participants took their roles seriously and helped each other out with technical issues that came up during the discussion, as in their roles/story. The financial manager was absent (couldn’t get on for some reason) so this meant that the others had to manage – a very typical scenario we thought, and again, this was managed well by everyone else, i.e. participants gave their opinions about/perspectives on the financial issues. The meeting finalized an action plan which was simple but realistic. (BTW – the facilitator (me) did not use a webcam so as not to highlight the fact that I was present. But I could hear and watch the entire meeting. I would do this again because I think students did forget that I was there). As the meeting was recorded it can be seen/heard for purposes of debriefing for future meetings/webinars.

One disadvantage to AC as a tool for active meetings training is that there is a limit to the number of participants. It worked with 5-7 participants but I imagine that a meeting of 3-5 would be perfect. But this is an excellent tool for giving reports and presentations to a large audience, as text chatting is available to any number of participants.

I’m trying to think what went wrong with our meeting. Nothing! My tip for teachers and students would be (of course): Be prepared! Communicating on the web can have added intercultural challenges that we don’t always experience in face2face encounters. And, always have your Plan B ready!

It was great fun. I think everyone was satisfied with a job well done, and our main problem at the end was actually saying goodnight and goodbye (it was 10.30 p.m. when I last looked at my watch!)

Cynthia Tilden-Machleidt

Thursday, Sept 30, 2010

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4 Gedanken zu „Active meetings with Adobe Connect Pro – getting started

  1. Thanks, Cynthia, for this fascinating report!

    I’m especially interested in your observation on the limits to the number of people that you thought this technology might reasonably handle, that 3-5 would be better than 5-7. I had the exact same experience today with the IBMAN Supervision group on Second Life, as you see here, http://bit.ly/d4Ji2J , where with even 16 participants (and worse with 24) it was difficult to see who was paying attention and who not (the eyes of the avatars are not the eyes of real people).

    And so it became very easy for 3-4 people to do most of the talking and for the majority to fall back; it was impossible for me, as I was able to do in my real world HWR classrooms where, with 30 students or more, I can walk through the room, make eye contact, evaluate who is saying what, who else I might call, and so better manage things.

    This experience leads me to think about small group activities and confirms my feeling that “in-world” needs to be carefully balanced and supported by our “off-world” activities, including the forums on Moodle — where everyone has an equal chance to present their work.

    It occurs to me that this is the same as I experience as a photographer working with the limits of film (yes, there are people still using rolls of the stuff): I had to learn early on that while my eye could quickly adjust to a dozen or more multiples of light, film has a much narrower range and so can’t handle the contrast. I learned to look for ways to turn this limitation to advantage (such as accept and work with deep shadows so that the highlights rose up, sometimes brilliantly.

    With so much of the online media, the costs are incredibly high. It is as if we are suddenly forced to talk through a tube, work with simplified shapes, talk with a reduced vocabulary, walk on stilts … and the trick is to turn limitations into an advantage. I remember learning from the art historian Rudolf Arnheim how the limitations of movie frames are a benefit, because without them movies could not work with things popping in and creative surprise.

    Twitter, for instance, with its 140 character limit, makes us writers of aphorisms and koans. Blogging, for instance, compels us to write with the brevity of a Hemingway. And my favorite argument about blogging is by Laurence Solom’s lecture (and conference on the topic at Harvard’s Berkman Center): that blogging is associated with the transformation of legal scholarship: 1) from huge monographs to shorter articles, 2) from theory-based to relevance-oriented writing, 3) and articles that are more timely and free-flowing “disintermediation” — the going around of established editors, journals.

    I would add that as we bloggers publish ourselves and reach our audiences through networking, our writing, for many, is often more conversational and our blogging even more precociously social: if you want an audience, you have to win it.

    So I’m wondering how different are such online conversations than otherwise?

    I, for one, feel like I can use less irony, because there is less opportunity for me to wink. I also think such meetings need to be better scripted, that they had better pay closer attention to time and so to the rules of order. This might be to the good, I don’t know.

    I think this is an important issue, because in the corporate world there is a powerful economic incentive – online meetings could save tremendously on airfare, hotels, etc. — but also, a higher risk of misunderstanding and loss of the tremendous variety of informal body, tone, and environmental cues that contribute, often mightily, to creativity.

    For instance, Millard Drexler at J. Crew basically forbids the sending of messages, in his management of the design team at this outrageously successful retailer (article by Nick Paumgarten, Profiles, “The Merchant,” The New Yorker, September 20, 2010, p. 75. http://nyr.kr/cRbR7E), as the place is set up more or less like Bertolt Brecht organized his playright’s studio on the Chausseestr. — open tables, a cacaphony of voices, ideas not abstracted into memorandum, but tested right out in the open, with quick feedback, and all manner of theatrics. The extraordinary J. Crew group portrait (on their website) would confirm the argument that “clothing speaks”, for the dress and postures here are wonderfully alive: these people appear comfortable and well-connected with each other — and I can’t imagine this energy being done online.

    So, I think your comment on an ideal of 3-5 in such video meetings is right on: the channel is narrow. I have the feeling that with this online video technology you get the advantage of overcoming distance at the cost of scale. But I also felt that I was talking more quietly, that there might be an advantage of a certain intimacy, and I surely felt that the situation brought out plenty of humor and, besides the limited information transferred, a powerful feeling of being connected.

    Thanks!

    Bruce Spear

  2. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favour”.I am looking for ways to add things to my website!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

  3. Very Nice website. I just finished mine and i was looking for some ideas and your website gave me some. May i ask you whether you developed the website by youself?

    Thank you

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